At first glance what we think may be, might be something else entirely if given a chance to look more slowly and with intention. Then, too, there is the case of looking at something which closely resembles another to the point we think they are one and the same. The classic comic example of this is a small child spying a skunk and crying out, "Kitty!"
Carin Bramsen's debut book as both author and illustrator, Hey, Duck! (Random House) a little duck is looking and...hoping. When you view life as a glass half full, as does Duck, good things might be right around the corner...er...puddle.
Why do you walk like that?
I slink because I am a cat.
Yes, a duck thinks a cat is a duck. Through a series of questions and thoughts we sense duck's possible puzzlement but determination. The cat's tail length is compared to the duck's. Fur is thought of as feathers; to the chagrin of the cat.
Duck invites and coaxes needing a partner in the puddle stomp. Irritation on the rise the cat tells the duck to skedaddle, preferring solitude. A raspberries match ensues between the two.
Duck decides one can have fun as cat settles into a snooze. A refrain of duck's startles the cranky cat to wakefulness. Now who's calling, Hey, duck?
A change of heart is a start as is the sound cat makes. Duck feels a dance coming into those webbed feet. You know what that means. But a surprise is in store for cat and every reader.
Told entirely in dialogue readers are treated to a rhyming tale of upbeat persistence. The contrast between duck's cheerfulness and cat's crabbiness creates humorous tension. The recurring refrain, Hey, duck! provides added rhythm. With careful word selection Bramsen has given readers very distinct voices for each of her characters.
Upon opening up the jacket and cover (a single illustration spanning both pages) you can't help but be attracted to the colorful, charming portrayal of cat and duck; the cute quotient is sky-high. Opening and closing endpapers in pale yellow resemble the downy feathers of a duckling due to the tiniest of lines and shading. Teeny little duck footprints with drops of water are placed in a loop around the dedication extending from the left page to the right where duck sits in his "pond" beneath the title.
For most of the illustrations a vivid sky blue is the background whether they are two page, a single page or grouped by twos or threes on a page. When smaller visuals are used white space provides a frame of alternating shapes; rectangle, circle or oval. The texture and detail of each picture is exquisite; at the very least you'll want to reach out and touch them expecting to feel fur, feather, grass, tree bark or water. Facial expressions, eyes many times looking right at the reader, and body movements convey each and every emotion and personality trait with perfection; cat hanging onto the tree with claws extended and arms spread, the wordless spat, duck splashing in the water with complete abandon, or cat's startled looks.
Carin Bramsen's debut work as both author and illustrator, Hey, Duck!, is a delightful exploration of compromise in the forging of friendships; of how goodness is many times not recognized until it's gone. It would make a wonderful read aloud using appropriate voices for the two characters or a bedtime pick for just a few. I predict multiple readings. (I've read it again and again, myself.) I can see pairing this with Leeza Hernandez's Dog Gone! or Dog in Charge written by K. L. Going with illustrations by Dan Santat.